Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wines for Halloween

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Halloween was long one of my favorite holidays as a kid. Whether I was going trick or treating in the building where I grew up in New York or heading down to the parade in the Village I loved the crazy costumes and the chance to indulge in eating multiple peanut butter cups. These days I stay in and thought I would share some of my favorite wines for the evening with you.

I keep cloves of garlic around all year, to make roast vegetables and stews. So a handful of wines that stand up to intense garlic-infused flavors include rich Syrahs and Barberas as well as red blends and Chilean Carmenere.

You will want to find reds with soft tannins and a nice spice profile. Many of the Rhone reds from simple Cotes du Rhones to Chateauneuf-du-Pape have lovely black pepper tones and hints of rosemary, and other herbs, that pair beautifully with garlic-based dishes. Another great way to bring garlic into your meal is by roasting whole cloves and serving them hot and spreadable with bread instead of butter throughout the meal.

In terms of pairing the Barberas with garlic you will want to find ones with slightly longer alcohol, so the heat from the wine doesn’t overwhelm the dish. Dolcettos, especially from Italy, will work fine as well. Italian winemakers are masters of creating wines that pair seamlessly with a hint of garlic.

If you have kids and will be taking them out and about, don’t forget to bring a little tipple for yourself. Those insulated water bottles you use at the gym keep wine cool as well (good to know for those hiking and beach trips as well), and can be filled with the libation of your choice.

Candy and Wine Pairing
If your kids have leftover candy or the neighborhood children don’t come by to enjoy all of yours you can host a candy and wine pairing after dinner. Since much of our candy is very sweet you will want to seek out dessert wines with good acidity to balance out the pairing.

Older Tawny Ports will pair beautifully with anything with caramel in them, even if it’s coated in chocolate. Rubies will work well with milk chocolate, while dark chocolate remains pretty difficult to pair well with a dessert wine and is perhaps best enjoyed on its own.

Sweet sparkling wines, such as Muscats and Moscatos, will also work well with caramel- and some coffee-flavors sweets. I am going a bit out on a limb here, but try them with buttered popcorn and caramel corn-flavored jelly bellies if you can find them.

If you are having ice cream for dessert, a simple flavor like vanilla, is great with a ribbon of ruby Port or Muscat reduction. You can make these easily by boiling the Port for about eight minutes in a sauce pan. Happy Halloween however you choose to celebrate it.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Port and Food Pairing

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Port has long been a great closer for a meal. It is also often paired with chocolate, which I hardly think is its most flattering match. As it is both sweet and fairly high alcohol choosing the right dishes with which to pair it can be challenging. So I consulted two experts on the matter.

“Port wine is a complex drink,” says Francisca van Zeller, wine director at the Douro Valley-based Six Senses Hotel. “Ruby Ports have tannin, they are fruit forward and generally wines with great structure and power. Tawny Ports have a persistent dried fruit and a slightly more marked acidity when they are younger.”

Each type of Port, she notes, is best matched with different foods. “Ideally, Port wine is enjoyed with snack, due to its complexity and array of flavors and aromas.” Roasted almonds are a typical treat that Portuguese enjoy with their Port in the Douro. In an American twist pretzels might also be nice with Ruby Ports as well.

“Ports are intensifiers of the taste spectrum, as their sweetness and complexity easily match the caramelized and nutty sweetness and contrast with salty cheese or citrus and berry acidity,” adds Beatriz Machado, the wine director of The Yeatman Hotel in the city of Porto. “This Fall spoil yourself with a full bodied fruit port served a bit chilled and a game and mushroom risotto!”

A Pairing Premier
When matching Port to food you will want to use it in the dish’s preparation as much as you can. Van Zeller says she had an amazing meal of veal slow cooked in Reserve Ruby Port that was paired with the same Port.

“If a Ruby Port is used as a reduction to be poured over a dish, or as a sauce to marinate a meat or fruit, then it should be the same Port wine that is paired with it,” she notes. One traditional Portuguese dish is called Drunken Pears, in which the peeled pears are soaked in Ruby Port before they are cooked until they are crunchy and sweet. Another way to incorporate Port into dessert is by making a reduction of Ruby Port and pouring it, when cool, over vanilla ice cream.

White Ports, which are generally sweeter than their red siblings, need to be chilled down to around 60 degrees before they are served. Van Zeller enjoys both them, and aged Tawny Ports, with foie gras and paté. Machado enjoys them with tonic water and a twist of orange and so do I. She also suggests pairing them with Parmigiano and Manchego cheeses, apple crumble, crème brûlée, tarte tartin and nut-driven desserts.

Ruby Ports, both Reserve and Late Bottled Vintage, work well with mild cheeses or a rich, bitter chocolate dessert, suggests van Zeller. While Vintage Port, as it is fuller-bodied and more complex, needs a slightly stronger contrast, such as slightly stronger cheese like Roquefort and Gorgonzola or the opulent soft and intensely perfumed Portuguese Queijo da Serra.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bacon and Cocktail Pairings

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Luscious ribbons of well-prepared bacon are delicious at any time of the day. They are as great at breakfast as dinner and in the mid-afternoon. I had the great pleasure of attending the second  edition of The Great Big  Bacon Picnic in Williamsburg a few days ago.

Legions of top New York chefs were on duty turning out some of the best bacon-based foods I have had in a long time. They included everything from bacon-dusted burgers to bacon-inspired carnitas. The pairings were a wide range of Brooklyn-distilled spirits; mostly on the brown side of category.

Local distillers in residence included Doc Herson's and the New York Distilling Company. Their products ranged from Absinthe to rye and gin. The gentleman behind all  the distilling magic, Dave Herman, the partner and director of beverages for the festival, enlightened me about how some of the best drinks were pairing with the bacon-luscious food offerings.

The Key to Perfect Piggy Pairings
"The kind of well made bacon from high-quality pork that we use has a natural sweetness along with the unctuous and salty flavors so I like to balance it with sour and bitter drinks. The Paloma is an excellent cocktail ...[and]  I also love a Gin Fizz thanks to citrus acidity, juniper's natural affinity for pork and the light carbonation which helps scrub the fat from your palate. I like to avoid sweeter cocktails here."

Some of my favorite pairings were Rye based, because of its depth and intensity and also mescal infused. That smokiness is divine with many types of bacon. A hint of citrus in the glass also refreshes your palate as you sip and refresh you palate between bites of bacon.

"Whiskey neat can do great things with rich and salty pork, but I avoid Bourbon personally because of the sweetness. I love rye with bacon. But I think gins go well thanks to the juniper and pork connection. And the natural astringency in good mescal might be my favorite pairing," added Hernan.
"I like to provide counterpoint with the cocktails. Let the smoke shine from the bacon then let the cocktail come in and refresh your palate, getting you ready for the next bite," he shared.

"Obviously I edge towards bitter and sour flavors  from the drinks. You can't hope to out-bacon bacon so for me keeping the sweetness in the drink to a minimum and using bitterness and acidity to provide contrast is the way to go," he said. As a resut, I so enjoyed the fantastic drink synergies on a beautiful sunny day in Brooklyn.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.